Tooks Chambers blames legal aid cuts as it begins dissolution

Michael Mansfield QC’s set Tooks Chambers has announced that it will begin winding up operations from October, with the set saying its dissolution is the “direct result” of legal aid cuts.

Michael Mansfield QC

The set released a statement on its website this morning, confirming that it would formally dissolve on 27 December but would stop taking instructions on 11 October. Mansfield, the barrister for the families of Stephen Lawrence, Jean Charles de Menezes and Dodi Al-Fayed, is known for taking legal aid cases and has been vocal about his opinion on the cuts (5 April 2013). 

The statement read: “The dissolution of Chambers is the direct result of government policies on Legal Aid. The public service we provide is dependent on public funding. 90 per cent of our work is publicly funded. The government policies led by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling are cumulatively devastating the provision of legal services and threatening the rule of law.”

It added that Mansfield and others were “actively pursuing” the possibility of reconfiguring resources in order to create an alternative working model based on an electronic hub and a compact physical space.

“This is particularly intended to support publicly funded practitioners who are committed to continuing the struggle for social justice both inside and outside the courts,” the statement read. 

Mansfield, who was admitted to the bar in 1967 and took silk in 1989, has advised on a number of famous cases. These include those wrongly convicted of IRA bombings, the families of Stephen Lawrence and Jean Charles de Menezes, Barry George during the inquest into the death of Jill Dando and Mohamed al-Fayed during the inquest into the deaths of Princess Diana and Dodi al-Fayed. He also represented Fatmir Limaj, a Kosovan leader accused of war crimes, tried at The Hague and acquitted.

He started out as a barrister when legal aid had just started to come into force and has become known for taking legal aid cases.

Chris Grayling
Chris Grayling

“When I started, legal aid had only just come in. It was pretty early days and it was frowned upon really. It was a poor relation of the welfare state when it should have been high priority”, Mansfield told Lawyer2B earlier this year. “What frightens me is that we are now in a situation that is worse than it was then. With 40 per cent cuts on civil legal aid when there have already been cuts on criminal legal aid.”

The Lawyer had not spoken to Mansfield at the time of writing. 

Lawyers have protested vigorously against the legal aid cuts since they were first announced (28 May 2013) and have warned that the impact could be devastating, including for the junior end of the bar. Read our recent special report, Criminal injustice, for more.